Beyond stem cells: Scientists explore three new paths
Three separate studies involving mice and monkeys have revealed significant potential for novel, non-stem cell-related treatments in regenerative medicine.
Bloomberg highlights all three in an interesting piece.
In one study, at the University College London, researchers transplanted precursors of rod cells into mice suffering from night blindness. According to the article, the procedure led to the formation of synapses and the mice gained significantly better night vision. In another study, involving the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, scientists injected mice that sustained heart attacks with three transcription factors (regulatory proteins) that subsequently helped morph fibroblasts (structural cells) into cardiomycytes (cells that make the heart beat). As a result, the mice gained better heart function.
Monkeys stepped in at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, where scientists used an electrical device to stimulate the arm muscles of monkeys with nerve blocks that mimicked spinal cord-related paralysis. Over time, the monkeys regained motion and could use their paralyzed hands to pick up a ball and move it, Bloomberg explains.
Of course, all of this is in early stages. And the results could have unintended consequences in future animal and human clinical studies. But they are positive early attempts to move beyond stem cells. As Deepak Srivastava, director of the Gladstone Institute, explains to Bloomberg, stem cells aren't the only way of addressing tissue regeneration, and they can be more traumatic to the body than alternative approaches--such as his--that scientists are pursuing.